Literature, Medical Ethics, and "Epiphanic Knowledge"
Hawkins, Anne Hunsaker
Journal of Clinical Ethics. 1994 Winter; 5(4): 283-290.
This essay is informed throughout by the assumption that literature can affect or modify the reader's moral sensibility, that literature instructs as well as pleases. This traditional approach to literature -- a tradition that goes back to Horace -- has been challenged in some, but by no means all, contemporary literary criticism. The subject of my essay is the contribution that literature -- particularly lyric poetry -- can make to medical ethics. It will be my contention that literature offers its readers special kinds of insight as well as distinctive ways of knowing. Such knowledge and such ways of apprehending knowledge are important not only to medical humanists but also to clinicians and bioethicists. For, as I hope to show, the insights that literature provides and the faculties that it engages provide a needed complement to the philosophy-based ethics that dominates today's medical ethical discourse.
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